Archive for April, 2010
Those of you old enough to remember The Happidrome will reacall the opening ditty which spoke of ’we three…just a set of twerps are we, Enoch ,Ramsbottom and me’. When I was a mere whippet there was no TV and such indoor highlights as we enjoyed were headed by the batty three. It all came flooding back last evening when I watched the Leaders Debate.
I found myself trying to relate the three would-be Prime Ministers to those zany characters and was helped by the fact that at British Leyland we tended to ascribe nicknames to those we liked or otherwise. I found it easy to relate our version of Ramsbottom to David Cameron. The BL ‘Ramsbottom’ was extremely posh and always looked as if newly polished. He was extremely clever but widely disliked due to his aloof manner and tenency to bully lesser mortals. He was the guy one avoided in the canteen.
The BL ‘Enoch’ was definitely an early version of Nick Clegg. An excellent Personnel Manager, one always grabbed a seat on his table if one was spare for he could brighten the darkest day. Like the original Enoch he was always optimistic and good for a laugh. He wasn’t a disciplinarian but always got good results from his team. Very much one of the boys he tended to confine his aggression to the football field in those long-gone days when tackling was allowed.
The one we called ‘Me’ was an accountant and always seemed to know how to keep us in the black. But he again was avoided in the canteen where he would plough through three courses of Peter Merchant delights whilst extolling in excruciating detail the principles of cash flow. We kept clear of him not because we disliked him but because we understood not one word of what he said. He is the nearest memoryI can relate to Gordon Brown.
It is probably unfair to draw such anologies with messrs Cameron, Brown and Clegg but it was after all simply a show. Most of last night’s polls gave Cameron and Clegg equal rating with poor old Gordon lagging behind. But like the ‘Me’ of old he is probably the only one that actually knows what he is talking about on the economy.
One hopes that we sufficient self understanding to resist basing our votes on image be it overpowering or humorous and find in six months time that we are back in a recession deeper than the foundations of Hadrian’s wall.
By all means let Enoch be in the team but boring though he may be I would prefer ‘Me’ Gordon in charge for so long as our financial stability is in the balance. Not that any of them compare with Lady Gaga!
At least that is what Cyril Smith told me at a Sportsmans Dinner many years ago. It certainly seemed that way yesterday. Sadly what happened told us a lot about Gordon Brown but before political opponents go all holier-than-thou it is perhaps reasonable to assume that the only difference is that they are more careful with microphones.
For me the incident with Mrs Duffy raises a far bigger issue. I recall being in Salisbury at the time of the 1951 election. Our group of airmen was out on the town when we came across a mass meeting of thousands. A Minister supporting a candidate was, through a megaphone, answering questions posed by electors using cupped hands. I remember that he was receiving a great deal of stick about something called The Groundnuts Scheme which to this day I don’t understand
But the point is that he was meeting large numbers of voters in an unstructured discussion. Everyone could judge him by his answers and everyone could traipse home feeling that they had had their say whilst he could drive off in his Morris Eight knowing what was on the public’s mind. Today every political event is stage managed. Wearing make up -that wouldn’t have gone down well in the 50s- our leaders and Ministers are shielded from anyone likely to disagree Even in events such as the Leaders Debate the audience is carefully vetted to ensure that no one breaks the rules of no applause, no heckling.
The army of spin-doctors and PR experts -how does one become an expert in talking to folk- now surrounding Messrs Brown and Cameron even briefs them on when and how to smile and stand. It is all utterly phoney. But worse still it locks those who would lead us in a little world of unreality. Gordon Brown probably didn’t even know that we all talk about the things that Gillian Duffy raised.
The odds are that the incident has confirmed the personal fate of Mr Brown whoever wins. One would like to believe that it will also lead to a far more open style of public contact. Yes in this day and age security imposes some limits but the only metaphorical screen surrounding senior politicians should be one of security not one filtering out the disgruntled.
It is time to say goodbye to the age of so called spinners. They mislead us, they mislead their masters. Come to think about it they can’t even do that well. Even a ten year old would remenber to turn off microphones!
Chorley readers will be intrigued to know that for the first time in living memory the town has appeared in Private Eye. In fact we are number one in the list of ‘Electionballs’.
According to the latest Eye, Chorley residents were invited to vote for ‘Forename’ after Tory candidate Alan Cullens failed to enter his personal details in a template created by Conservative Central Office. The leaflets were ditched but not before around 3000 copies had been distributed in the town centre.
No harm done then and we needed a laugh to lighten the increasing gloom of an election which seems likely to be won by the Party promising to make the most severe cuts in public services. Now there’s a first! And to add to our sense of impending doom independent experts have said that all three leaders are failing to reveal all. In other words on election day plus one we could learn that we have just voted for service reductions the like of which we have never seen even in our worst nightmares.
According to the pundits Nick Clegg has been franker than the others or, as they put it, is ‘less bad than them’. It really is incredible that deception on this scale is taking place. It is easier to forgive the Lib/Dems because frankly they didn’t anticipate the possibility of winning until the new mega star hammered Snooty Dave and Grumpy Gordon. But the other two have absolutely no excuse for not revealing all.
Both Labour and Tories must have detailed plans ready for the budget that will be launched within six weeks of victory. In Brown’s case there may well be no short term cuts to reveal since his stance is that cuts within the first year would trigger a disastrous recession. But Cameron talks of billion pound savings within six months. Hi silenec means either that they are so severe that he dare not tell us or that the figure is simply a fantasy.
Yesterday I wrote of Michael Foot. He would have told all. Mind you he wouldn’t have won and one senses that with the current contenders power is all that matters. Honesty? You must be joking!
Someone at our Ferret Club cmmented that there is no such thing as an honest politician. He was probably alluding to the current election but I had to take issue with him. I knew and loved Michael Foot. He was unique. He was honest to a fault. It was easy to disagree with Michael but impossible not to love his lack of guile and pretentiousness. What you saw was what you got.
Of course he would have been a failure in the current leadership contest. Anyone saying exactly what they thought and dressing according to what was on the nearest hook would be denegrated by public and critics alike. There are no marks for authenticity or passion. Micheal had these in abundance and they led to his downfall in an election and even at a cenataph.
I last met Michael Foot in Manchester. He was travelling alone and carrying a rucksack. His only concession to advancing years was a chair when speaking but he did confess that old age ‘is not all it’s cracked up to be’. He seemed to view many of the leaders of the day as false. Perhaps he found it hard to believe that fellow politicians could not see the importance of saying what was in their minds, offend or please. But how refreshing to meet one that did.
Michael was a passionate orator, author, pamphleteer and journalist. He was a campaigning politician who fought for what he believed in. He cared , he railed against what he saw as the injustices of a society where the rich gained at the expense of the poor. He was the last of the great socialists. His self understanding was absolute, he knew who he was and what he believed in and that was what he proclaimed.
Michael finally laid down his pen and sword on March 4th. He was 96. It sounds odd to be devastated by the news of a death at this age but I was. I so wanted him to make a century. The picture of a centenarian wearing a duffle coat waving his stick angrily at half-truths had hovered unchallenged for many years in my minds eye.
I know the old adage that the graveyards are full of the indispensible but in terms of MPs I contend that there is an exception. When Lindsay Hoyle, the MP for Chorley, eventually hangs up his boots he will leave an unfillable gap. He is arguably the finest constituency MP in parliament, a claim borne out by the record number of questions he asks. And they are all about Chorley. Notionally a Labour MP, Lindsay would be more accurately described as a Chorley one.
I am surely not alone in seeing Nick Clegg as a breath of fresh air after the most shameful year in political history. Frankly he would have won my cross if it were to be based on my desire to cry plague on both their houses but here in Chorley we are uniquely blessed with a 24/7 champion who has won concession after concession for the town of his birth.
Many of all political leanings tell me of battles he has fought on their behalf and when thousands turned out to applaud the proud memorial to the Chorley PALS that he has worked so hard for it was as if everyone had come together to say thankyou for all that you do. But my special memory is the fight he led to save the hospital.
I was Chairman at the time and when news came that the Primary Care Trust was building a centre to house a private provider who would take over our outpatients services I knew that we were facing a huge crisis. The nature of NHS funding is such that hospitals fund the costly and complex procedures through income earned from the routine and relatively easy treatments. My calculation was that if we lost outpatients it would be necessary at the very least to integrate emergency services at Chorley into Preston.
Early protests drew an assurance that a series of public consultations would be held. The Governors of our Foundation trust had no confidence that these would produce other than a claimed endorsement of the plan for privatisation. It was with some hesitation that I approached Lindsay who after all was notionally a member of the government proposing to slay us . His reaction was immediate. I was born in that hospital and it is crucial to Chorley. This isn’t going to happen was his declaration. What followed is now part of the history of the town.
The first meeting shocked everyone. Following Lindsay’s call for the public to fight thousands turned out and the meeting was swamped and chaotic. The second one was held at St Mary’s Hall and eventaully had to be abandoned. the hall was packed but thousands queued outside and tempers frayed. Lindsay walked the throngs an dmanaged to keep a semblance of order but again a meeting was impossible. The third attempt to hold a consultation was arranged for the largest venue in the town, the town hall Lancastrian suite. The police were asked to attend.
Throughout all this both Lindsay and myself were subjected to threats the like of which I never experienced even in the robust Truck industry. But by now the MP was leading an estimated 12,000 signatories to his petition and he faced up to the then Secretary of State, Patricia Hewitt. On the eve of the town hall meeting it was announced that the proposed Assessment and Treatment centre was to be run by the NHS at Chorley hospital. To this day it is the only one in the country.
I have never quite recovered from the fact that a Labour government was proposing this. It also had the tacit support of many Conservatives but that was understandable. To me the most amazing aspect of the whole affair was the willingness of Lindsay to defy his own colleagues . Clearly Chorley was his priority.
Given the usual type of MP committed to obeying the whips and towing the Party line we would have lost our hospital, our TA barracks, bus passes and a host of other things that may not be important to London but mean a lot here.
I personally hope that the day will dawn when elected representatives are independently minded and put their patch before all else. But therein lies destruction of promotion prospects and villification from on high. For now I will settle for what we have, a fighter who fears no one and cares only about his home town.
He isn’t called The Terrier for nothing!
There was a time when the word cancer was spoken in whispers and the automatic assumption was that there was little hope. Times have changed and, although a cure remains elusive, the rate of cure is rising rapidly. I know because, although my stint as Chair of our local hospitals is over, I still maintain an active involvement in the Rosemere Cancer Centre .
This is based at Royal Preston Hospital and through satellite centres across the region provides a uniquely advanced and caring treatment service. Of course there are still from time to time sad experiences but I meet vast numbers who have emerged from successful treatment with a smile.Only yeasterday a man stopped me in the town centre to report a clean bill of health and to sing the praises of the medical staff and warm informal atmosphere at Rosemere.
Following a huge fund-raising effort by the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, a charity whose aim is to make available the latest technology before it becomes available through NHS funding, enormous strides have been taken in keeping ahead of hi-tech developments . The charity recently paid for a piece of kit costing £700,000. This enables the ‘beams’ in radiotherapy to be focussed on the precise spot requiring attention, thus eliminating the long standing challenge of avoidng damage to other organs.
It is just one example of the battle being waged to make Rosemere the best and to win the battle against one of mankind’s greatest scourges. If you visit Rosemere you will meet a highly professional clinical team backed by an army of dedicated volunteers. The coffee shop never closes, the people raisng funds never falter.
Every week brings events. Last night over 150 Rosemere walkers set off at midnight from Chorley hospital to Preston. All wore clothing proclaiming the fight against cancer. And as the procession walked off into the night there was a feeling of optimism. One lady quoted President Obama. ‘Can we win’? ‘Yes we can’ !
Like all charities Rosemere has been hit by the recession, raising cash has become much harder. Ironically the first thing I read on the morning after the walk was the Sunday Times rich list. It seems that the super rich flourished whilst the rest of us struggled.
I realise they didn’t become rich by giving donations but they should maybe consider it. Cancer attacks one in three of us and takes no account of status and wealth.
Some people are allergic to spiders, my self understanding reveals that I have a thing about percentages. They seem to be everywhere. On a plane yesterday we were told that the chance of ash intake was less than one per cent. In other words there was a chance and it ruined my free cup of coffee.
Have you noticed how often percentages crop up in the unending ads on the box? My favourite is the one that proudly claims that brand X kills 99 per cent of all known germs. It merely serves to leave me wondering about the one that it doesnt kill. And the politicians are waving the things about too
Today someone handed me a Tory election leaflet. It is devoted to telling us that they will make a perfect NHS even more perfect and goes on to state that 50 per cent of all Doctors support the Conservatives. I’m not surprised that highly paid professionals prefer to have even richer people in charge but now I sense that the Tories are doomed if 50 per cent of even top earners support Nick Clegg (he crops up almost as often as percentages).
Percentages are the fast route to a sense of injustice and there is plenty of that about to add grist to Nick’s mill. I worked in industry and latterly in the NHS. In the former should we achieve a performance of 95 we were summoned to Lomdon to receive bonuses and free doughnuts. If in the NHS we achieved that number we were pilloried in the news bulletins and summoned to London and threatened with the Tower. Understandable since 95 means that 5 out of every the 100 patients that poured through our doors every hour were at risk.
Of course for those of us with a percentage allergy an election is the equivalent of summer for hay fever sufferers. We are pounded with them on a daily basis and every day they change. Do people really change their minds so often, is the whole nation comprised of people like Mavis in ‘Open all Hours’?
I guess that I’m like Churc hill in this respect. When in 1945 he was told that an opinion poll predicted an Attlee victory he asked how many people had been asked. the answer was one thousand. ‘Then its rubbish’ replied the great man, ‘there are 30 million voters’. I confess that I cannot understand how random sampling works.
But then I can’t fathom why people are so fond of quoting percentages at all. It seems to me that they create more uncertainty than reassurance. And disregard anyone quoting 100, that is mpossible if not as much so as the 120 per cent so often quoted by soccer managers.
Many of our daily newspapers have close links with the Tory Party and traditionally rush to their friends in times of trouble. It was the sudden emergence of Nick Clegg that triggered them this week. Suddenly the certain arrival of someone they find amenable in Downing Street didn’t look so certain after all and the knives came out for the presumptious outsider.
In just a few days Mr Clegg was the subject of banner headlines. He was a Nazi, Immigration crazy, taking money from Donors..the list was a long one. Even Peter Mandelson was moved to describe the coverage as disgusting , smears straight out of the Tory Party dirty tricks manual. He could have added that it was a relief for the victim to be other than himself.
There is of course nothing new in all of this other than the fact that the Lib/Dems are the injured party. And until recent times the papers concerned were able to wield considerable influence. But this time around there is an encoraging development for democracy. The press is no longer the opinion-maker it once was. The computer age has arrived and people can share views and seek the real truth.
One web site alone has received thousands of ‘tweets’. There is even a site headed ‘nickcleggsfault’ and the messages are pouring in. An example is one that says that Nick Clegg fell asleep on the Titanic when he should have been looking out for icebergs’. Another claims that the BBC has cancelled ‘Crimewatch’ because it now realises that every crime is committed by Nick. To have the nation laughing at them must be a culture shock to the media tycoons.
I confess that I have frequently mourned the effect of instant communication and its impact on demand for mewspapers. But this is the flip side, one in which millions can see that they are not alone in regarding political bias gone mad as, er, mad.
One tabloid today does describe what is happening as the politics of the gutter. And so it appears. But the teeth of the once all-powerful headline writers have been pulled and it didn’t require an NHS dentist.
I have long been a member of the WATE society and it’s membership is flourishing. The only qualification required is to be expert in being Wise After The Event. The modus-operandi is simple, you never comment whilst an event is occurring but wait until the outcome is known and then make clear how it should have been tackled. In the event that things went well you can of course modestly admit that it was just as you suggested.
Over the years being a WATE has boosted my self-esteem no end. I was able to explain where Tim Henman went wrong, how this horse or that could have won the National and how the PNE keeper should have dealt with that high ball in to the box. My self understanding tells me that being wise after the event is unfortunately how I am.
I now realise that our membership is even greater than I imagined. A host of politicians and media pundits have lined up to denounce the cautious approach to news of the ash crisis. David Cameron even wants a full enquiry. I don’t recall his earlier demanding that planes should fly. And his media friends whose screaming headlines compare the government and aviation authorities with headless chickens also seemed to leave their analysis a little late.
I have a pal who like me is a WATE member. He was stranded at airports for days and talks of the sharks that charged him plenty for transport. When I gently pointed out that they are a better propsect that the sharks in the oceans over which he hoped to fly he assures me that he always wished to take off and risk it. Perhaps he simply forgot to mention that in his emails.
The sudden conviction of the national press that Nick Clegg is arguably the greatest failure since Eddie the Eagle also seems a little WATE like. Before his TV appearance they scarcely mentioned him at all yet now they warn of what he did or didn’t do a decade ago. Similarly with Blair. He was, the pundits tell us, always going to fail. Was that really what they said at the time?
Someone who clearly doesn’t qualify for our esteemed brotherood of WATEs is dear old Ken Clark. He has predicted that a hung parliament will lead to a financial crisis of monumental proportions. I admire him because some day soon he could look a chump rather than an all-knowing sage who knew it would work.
I admire him but won’t emulate him. Come the New Year I will reveal what I believed all along about the tactics in the Ashes series down under. I’m just too busy to explain it all now.
Following my piece about Churchill’s ability to see trouble ahead I was asked what I thought the great man would make of the present election scene. Sadly he lies in Bladon churchyard and one can only guess.
My first stab is that he would be distinctly unimpressed by the Gordon and Dave double act but that sentiment probably goes for most of us. I also think he would be amazed at the fact that the threat of Iran has hardly earned a mention. What he would make of the fact that tabloids are focussed on the news that Nick Clegg used to wear odd socks doesn’t bear thinking about but one can be fairly sure that he would feel that we have our priorities slightly wrong.
Yesterday Michael Evans, a Pentagon correspondent, quoted a senior former US defence official as saying that it may already be too late to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon. The responses of the Western world had , he said, been too weak and too late.Even the threatened tough sanctions have failed to materialise given that support from China and Russia have been hard to obtain.
The former official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, outlined what he sees as a nightmare scenario. Once Iran has developed the weapon it could pass it to Hezbollah which already has a formidable artillery and missile inventory. He could have added that if anyone imagines that it’s leadership will be deterred by retaliation in any form they probably also believe that the earth is flat.
The story only made the inside pages, well behind Nick Clegg’s socks and the odds are that by now the page in question encircles cod and chips. We either don’t care or, as in the case of global warming, prefer to disbelieve. Yet this is not some half-baked tale such as Saddam’s WMDs being 45 minutes from Hyde Park. This could be, as they like to say in horror movies, IT.
Even the economy, ash, Mancheter United or any other crisis that haunts you surely shrinks by comparison with the possibility of a nuclear war triggered by madmen. I suspect Churchill would claim that we invaded the wrong country. It is also possible that he would support the view that the cost of Trident should be diverted to a force capable, if all else fails, of another invasion. Of course he would as always be accused of being an alarmist but it all sounds alarming to me.
For me if any of the Election parrots chooses to highlight this threat and to suggest actually doing something about it it is a vote-winner. And if that happens to be Nick Clegg I’ll live with the fact that his socks don’t match!
Have you noticed that despite employing a zillion spin-doctors the main Parties have failed to come up with a slogan that sticks. No one seems capable of producing a three-worder that refuses to go from the mind. Obama produced a sizzler with ‘Yes we can’, words that had one working at the question. By comparison our leaders are less than inspiring.
I wondered if the Tories were on to something when they opened with ‘Fighting for the great ignored’ but it hasn’t been mentioned since and one is left wondering if they decided to ignore us after all. Labour kicked off with ‘a Future fair for all’ but it seems to have faded possibly because many confused it with a future free-for-all. The Lib /Dems didn’t seem to have one prior to the TV debate but thanks to grumpy Gordon and dashing Dave they now have a beauty. ‘I agree with Nick ‘ seems to go for everyone right now.
Worryingly one hears one slogan repeated again and again . It’s source is unusual since it has not evolved from a desk of spin. Where it started is impossible to know but just about everyone I have chatted to proclaims that they ‘are all the same’. It is a sort of anti-slogan slogan. The great British love affair with politicians is truly over.
The loss of trust is such that it is hard to imagine either of the usual two Parties winning a huge vote of confidence. Young Nick we know not but he plays cricket and has no past transgressions to rationalise. Even the tabloids would have to work hard to set an interview trap for the last Liberal Prime Minister!
It seems likely that those rushing to compare Nick Clegg with Churchill are not historians. To say that is not to imply criticism of Mr Clegg who does look a brighter button than grumpy Gordon or snooty Dave. But there was a great deal more to Winston Churchill than his rhetoric.
Many historians rank the great man amongst the best leaders in British history. Most people are well aware of the inspiration he provided during the darkest days of the second world war but few realise that had his warnings during the period 1928 to 1935 been heeded the war would not have taken place. His ability to read the international scene was exceptional.
Under the Treaty of Versailles drawn up by the conquering powers after the end of the ‘war to end all wars’ there was no possibility of Germany creating an army capable of matching up to the Allies. The limit imposed on men in uniform was 100,000 including a maximum of 4000 officers. The Inter-Allied Military Commission of Control was charged with the task of monitoring this. What it failed to spot was that under General von Seeckt a full-sized army was being planned. Under the pretence of being Departments of Reconstruction, Research and Culture several thousand plain clothes staff officers were setting up a framework for a massive rearmanent . Existing manuals were rewritten based on lessons learned from the war and aimed at the armed might of the German Reich.
For several years short-service training of soldiers beyond official limit was practiced on a small scale. The treaty limited Germany to seven infantry divisions, Seekt’s aim was a minimum of sixty-three. In moving toward this he risked confrontation with not only the Allies but also the Prussian Socialist Government.
Beilieving that , according to Marshall Foch, effective disarmanent of Germany had taken place the Commission withdrew in 1927 and handed over to the ineffective League of Nations. Churchill was already warning of so called Boy Scouts, Cadet Corps and Youth movements which were not what they appeared. Similar developments were taking place in regard to air power. An experienced group of ex Air Force officers were, under the guise of developing civil aircraft, planning for the modern and powerful force that would eventually lay waste large parts of Europe.
All this proceeded apace and Churchill’s constant warnings were dismissed as alarmist. He also spoke of the emergence of Adolf Hitler as a national figure. But againhe was dismissed as a warmonger. Eventually Hitler gained the allegiance of the controlling forces and official executive. A threatening picture was emerging but only the politically isolated Churchill and a small band of colleagues recognised the dangers of the man they came to call ’Corporal Hitler’.
By the thirties German was rearming at a pace to match that at which the Allies were disarming. By the time the nation turned to Churchill it was too late to prevent war. The so-called prophet of doom had proved to be someone that should have been listened to!
As the ill prepared Allies lurched from one crisis to another and the news grew ever darker one man inspired millions. Churchill took the English language and turned it into a weapon. He was helped in this by being in the pre-television age for whilst his voice was awe-inspiring his stature was not. But the fact that all that was happening had been forecast by him enraged and motivated him. A patriot to the core, he would have fought to the end rather than surrender.
The story of this remarkable man is a complex and long one. But given that he ultimately saved the freedom we still enjoy today it seems only right that we should shrink from believing that one TV appearance, however impressive, qualifies anyone to be handed his crown.
Not that he would have minded. He would probably have had a tot, puffed on his Cuban cigar and extended two fingers skywards. And of course he was once a Liberal! In reality his self understanding was such that he knew political dogma was not for him, he was a true warhorse.
For the first time ever I have heard a politician put his finger on the real problem in our beleagured NHS. When Nick Clegg said that he would abolish Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) I almost fell of my chair thus adding to the unending pressure on the Accident and Emergency services. At last someone had realised that the massive savings demanded can be made without affecting patient services by one jot.
When I retired from Industry I spent 14 years as the chair of two hospitals,the second of which we converted into a Foundation Trust.I arrived expecting to meet vast numbers of the ‘managers’ so often referred to by critics. In fact the small number of administrators at the busy hospitals came as a shock. Where then were all the thousands of non-medical staff reported so regularly in the media? I soon found out as the paperwork poured in from layers of bureaucracy. In our particular Trust we reported to a hugely staffed Primary Care Trust (PCT) which in turn danced to the tune of an SHA packed to the rafters with supposed experts on every conceivable subject who spent their expensive time monitoring the monitoring of hospitals by the PCT. Over and above these two bodies we also responded to an organisation called Monitor which regularly summoned us to London where in their lush headquarters they ran a sort of giant box-ticking exercise based on a vast array of targets most of which seemed to have little relevance to patient care. And to crown it all we also had to repsond to a Health Care Commission.
None of thse layers made any contribution to real quality standards and various hospitals continued to failed. We were not amongst them but our task of maintaining a top class medical service was doubly hard given the time that we had to spend satisfying daily demands for statistics many of which the clinicians regarded as totally irrelevant to their preoccupation with their only concern,the recovery of their patients.
I cannot even begin to imagine what the cost of the huge bureaucracy is. I recall being summoned to conferences at the Queen Elizabeth Conference centre in London. At each one there were around 600 delegates, virtually none of whom were doctors or nurses. Ennui overtook a group of us on one occasion and we attempted a calculation of the cost of that event alone. We came up with £600,000 and there were many such occasons.
The real point is that far from spending vast amounts regularly bringing thousand of bureaucrats together we should simply abolish them The savings would be enormous and the added benefit would be that hospitals, GPs and community medical staff would be left free to devote their time to what they do best.
In my experience both the Labour and Tory governments have demonstrated that they simply do not understand where the waste actually lies. Neither do they understnd the dangers of introducing private providers. They can only take on the basic medial procedures and these are the ones that provide hospital Trusts with the bulk of their ‘profits’ which fund the expensive and complex work.
Just three years ago the government tried through its various levels of henchmen to introduce privately run outpatients services at Chorley in Lancashire. It was only when the local MP opposed his own ministers and brought thousands of people on to the streets that a U-turn occurred. I said then, and say now, that had the proposal been executed the fine hospital would have been forced to close. Instead it now has the first NHS Assessment and Treatment Centre. But to achieve this it had to fight layer upon layer of highly paid executives.
Having poured all this out I feel better. My outpouring is thanks to Nick Clegg, of whom I had scarcely heard, who has recognised where the much discussed efficiency savings in the NHS should be made. I do not accuse the other parties of deliberately not focussing as he has, I simply feel that they have no real understanding of the bureaucratic nightmare that our most important public service now carries on its sagging shoulders.
We have the finest health service in the world. The clinicians that make it thus deserve better than to be at the beck and call of highly paid and unqualified pen-pushers.
Do you keep a diary? Me neither. I now regret that having gained both pleasure and knowledge from the recent spate of dairies published by the social research organisation Mass Observation which was born in 1937 and recuited large numbers to record their daily lives. This week I read ‘Nella Last’s Peace’, the daily jottings of a housewife in Barrow in the aftermath of war.
Nella had already faithfully recorded daily life during the 1939-45 wartime years.After the sirens fell silent she felt like an ‘empty shell’. Later she comments that the stars were shining bightly and cheer her by making her feel trivial and her worries likewise. How families lived then is revealing but it is the emotional content that makes the book special. She reveals great domestic tensions but draws inspiration from her Gran’s adage of ‘Ah well, we must do the best we can and move on’.
Of all the diaries to appear my favourite is ‘Tommy’s War’, the jottings of Tommy Livingstone, a Glaswegian shipping clerk. He led an uneventful life , yet captured the feelings of ordinary folk during the first world war.He even included sketches and many a whimsical tale. His devotion to wife Agnes and and son ‘wee Tommy’ provide a constant thread. His final entry was in 1950. He wrote that ‘Agnes, my darling sweetheart, died this morning’. Tommy wrote no more.
These and other published diaries tell us a great deal about life as it was. They also provide food for thought. An example being that in none I have read is more than a passing reference made to politicans. In today’s world of mass communication we are deluged with daily tales of ‘dogged Gordon’ and ‘dashing Dave’ yet history suggests that changes of government make little impact on our day-to-day lives. Perhaps that is how Nella and Tommy felt, perhaps they were wiser than us.
Reading so many accounts of the lives of folk that otherwise would by know be forgotten is enriching. I have learned that everyone has a story to tell. Of course in some cases such as Captain Scott we should be eternally grateful that he kept a diary right up to the terrible ending in a desolute and frozen waste. The details of this brave groups journey to the Pole would never have been known.
I have a confession to make. I have kept a diary for donkey’s years but now realise it will not succeed me given that it has no social history, just facts that are freely available elsewhere. I suspect the historians of a century from now will want to know about cricket, transport, prices, what we watched on TV, how we lived our daily lives,how we related to God. They will have no need of my pen to provide the PNE scores or Lancashire’s cricket scores.
It is too late for this fogey to start again but if you are young I urge you to consider making a few daily notes. As Tommy proved the trivia of today becomes fascinating beyond jewels decades later. And as both he and Nella proved generations to come can learn from their nightmares and dreams.
Why should life records be confined to stars who often cannot even be bothered to write the tale?
A volcano erupts and suddenly the mighty machines of man are as straw in the wind. It is perhaps generous of Mother to give us the occasonal reminder that whenever she feels so inclined she can smother us, drown us or blow us away.
If she did not those of us without self understanding would forget completely and come to believe in our infallibility. Our machines would be all capable, our edifces indestructable and our military might all conquering. But all are reduced to dust in the face of nature, the power that towers beyond anything man can produce.
Scientists can of course explain each and every act of nature. Those of us of less knowledge and fanciful minds sometimes wonder if there is not a more mystical explanation. Could it be that God or Mother Nature observes the growing arrogance of man as he polutes the planet and destroys its natural resources and being a benevolent being decides to issue a series of yellow cards’. If so will she one day decide that enough is enough?
You don’t have to be of a religious disposition to delight in the joys of nature on a sunny Spring day. Nor to realise that we are speeding up the race to ultimate destruction. Who cares about the rain forests or the thousands of air miles, the rocketing population or the nuclear waste? We are all powerful!
But we seemed less so as we waited in vain at the airport. And we couldn’t even blame the government, social services or any of our usual scapegoats. Perhaps we should ridicule the supposed natural powers as we do with global warming. But suddenly it is much harder to do that as the dust hangs high over Heathrow’s gleaming indestructable towers!